‘Kite for COVID’ challenge created to support charity

Three young kitesurfers plan to cover 22 miles to raise money for ARK

As charities run low on funds while demand for assistance increases, members of the community are stepping up to find new ways to raise money.

Schoolmates Jake Fagan, 12, Ben Coak, 11, and Zach Brooks, 12, have come up with just such a plan. One day this week (to be determined by the weather), they will attempt to kitesurf the equivalent of the length of Grand Cayman – 22 miles – to raise money for the non-profit Acts of Random Kindness.

From left, Ben Coak, Jake Fagan and Zach Brooks

As the actual route from George Town to East End would be quite perilous, the boys will instead be travelling back and forth between the South Sound shore and the reef, using GPS technology and an app to measure the distance they cover. It is estimated that 60-70 round trips will need to be completed, in order to rack up the 22 miles.

In a way, the ‘Kite for COVID’ adventure began two years ago, when Jake asked for kitesurfing lessons for his birthday. His parents complied, and he subsequently got Ben and Zach to join in. They were taught by the Kitesurf Cayman company at Barkers Beach, and all were hooked from the first lesson.

Ben said it was hard work at the start, but it didn’t take long for them all to grasp the technique, although Zach happily recalled a few face-plants in the beginning.

“In the first lesson, I kind of flew and landed on my face,” Zach laughed, “so it was a bit of a long start for me, but fun!”

Jake said he was struck by the peacefulness of kitesurfing, being out in the wind, and found it pretty smooth sailing from the beginning.

The boys honed their skills over time, rapidly improving at a rate that surprised even their parents. Jake’s father, Mark Fagan, started lessons when the boys did, and freely admitted that, at this stage, they are far more advanced than he. If they get into difficulties on the challenge day, he’ll be going out to assist in a boat, not via kitesurf.

The Kite for COVID initiative was Jake’s idea.

“I heard in all the press briefings about [the tourism situation], how nobody [was] allowed to come to Cayman,” Jake said, “and I thought of all the people who have jobs [associated with tourism] and how they would have lost their jobs and wouldn’t be making any money. I [wanted to] try to help them.”

Although Jake had been wanting to raise money for a while, it was only about a week ago that he hit on the idea of the kitesurfing challenge. He immediately contacted his two friends, and they agreed to get on board, so to speak.

He knew what he wanted to call it, and parents helped with designing a logo, which has been printed on T-shirts for the boys and the supporting team.

The next part of the plan was to choose a charity.

“We heard how many meals ARK had been delivering,” Jake said, “so that kind of brought us to them, [particularly when] they told us that they would be running out of sponsorships from 1 July.”

All three expect the challenge to take them around three hours, with Jake the most ambitious, followed by Ben, then Zach (who later amended his prediction to 3-4 hours; clearly he is the conservative one).

Jake displays his skills over the water.

One of their biggest concerns has been the endurance levels the task will require. With their school, Cayman Prep, closed, they have not been exercising every day as they would have been. They have therefore taken it upon themselves to physically prepare for the event by training on the beach, swimming, running and kayaking.

Zach worried about his stamina, but felt the only thing to do was to get out there and do their best.

“I’m hoping I’ll have enough energy,” Ben said, “as there will probably be lots of people filming and stuff, so I don’t want to let them down, and also there’s the money [we’re trying to raise].”

“I’m worried we won’t raise enough money to feed enough people,” said Jake. “We want to try and help as many people as possible.”

It should be noted that by Tuesday at 8:30pm, the fundraiser had already passed $18,000, and so the target has been increased to $20,000. Clearly, word has got out.

Governor Martyn Roper gave the boys and their fundraising efforts a shout-out at Tuesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, bringing even more awareness to their campaign.

As kitesurfing is completely dependent on weather conditions, the lads are prepared for the fact that if the wind dies or whips up to a dangerous level, the entire proceedings will have to be postponed until things improve, but the plan is to go as soon as possible as the official prime kitesurfing season in Cayman has already passed.

The rules of the challenge are such that if any of the three need water, they can signal the team on land, who will walk into the sea to give them some, but the recipient kitesurfer must have at least one hand on the kite at all times.

Friends, family, ARK and Cayman Prep are behind the boys 100% and based on the donations they have raised thus far, there is a strong indication that they will reach, or even surpass, their new target.

Jake’s mother, Leigh Fagan, is thrilled to see the response from the public, and is a mix of emotions as the event approaches.

“I’m proud, excited, nervous and a little bit worried,” she laughed. “When I asked Jake what he was most worried about and what he was going to find challenging, he said he was concerned he wasn’t going to reach their target. He’s not worried about the actual kitesurfing – he’s worried about not reaching their goal. That kind of put my mind at rest.”

To donate to Kite for COVID, there are several options:

  • Donate to ARK through Butterfield Bank (USD Acc# 01201039292 or KYD Acc# 02201039292)
  • Write a cheque payable to Cayman’s ARK and mail to PO Box 32045, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, KY1-1208
  • Pay by credit or debit card at www.caymansark.com/donate-online.

Please state that the donation is for the Kite for COVID challenge.

For more information about ARK, visit www.caymansark.com.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.